Monday, December 26, 2022

Nadel-A-Thon in N.C. ... And a New Gig for Coach Mike

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Dec. 21 was the first day of winter, and we got an early blast of frigid weather in North Carolina. But we were fortunate that we had something to warm our hearts -- a first-ever Charlotte visit from our grand-twins Logan and Jack.

Here they are with Ruthie, their "cousin" hound.


LoJack (and their parents Sammi and Ben) spent much of their vacay with their Aunt Katie, Uncle Ben and cousins Owen and Piper (and the aforementioned Ruthie), who live just a few minutes away from Grandma and Grandpa.

Here are the four cousins (from left - Owen, Piper, Jack, Logan) at an indoor water park. You know how difficult it is to get four kids ages 3 and under to smile and look at the camera at the same time?!?!

We also had fun at the Carolina Raptor Center, looking at hawks, eagles, owls and other birds of prey. Here are the three boys in a small cabin on the site.

And "Lady in Red" Piper, all warm and happy!

After going for a "ride" with Grandma and Grandpa ...

... artist Logan proudly displayed his renowned work, "Portrait of Grandma." The resemblance is uncanny!


One afternoon, Robbie and I and our offspring even got to sneak away for an hour sans kiddos.


Katie and her family moved to Charlotte from Seattle in September, and it's been fantastic having them here. "Fantastic" also is a great word to describe the visit from the Chicago Nadels. Come back soon, y'all -- warmer weather next time, we promise!!

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The few birds of prey we saw at the Raptor Center aren't the only Owls in my life these days.

After a two-year Covid hiatus, I'm coaching middle-school girls basketball again. My latest assignment is at Socrates Academy, a highly regarded public charter school only a few minutes from my house.

Hoo are we? The Owls, the mighty, mighty Owls!

We played 4 games before the holiday break. That we won 3 of them is great, because I'm told that there hadn't been a whole lot of winning 'round these parts. More importantly, though -- and I mean it -- is that these kids work so hard, they are so coachable, and they want to improve so much. 

And they have improved a ton in just the time we've been together so far. They're a real likeable group, too, and they support each other and the coaches so well. 

Coach Katie -- yep, Payton Prep's all-time 3-point shooter is my assistant -- and I are very grateful that we get to work with them. And we're excited about what the rest of the season will bring when school resumes in January.

Go Owls!

^

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

It's Turkey Time Again -- Who's Number 1 in 2022?

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This is the 25th annual edition of my sports Turkeys of the Year ... and as always, there were lots of losers, lunkheads, dopes, druggies, criminals and clowns to choose from. 



Before I get to 2022, here are my selections over the years ...

  • 2021 -- Aaron Rodgers
  • 2020 -- Donald F. Trump
  • 2019 -- Antonio Brown
  • 2018 -- J.R. Smith
  • 2017 -- Kyle Shanahan
  • 2016 -- Pat McCrory
  • 2015 -- Derrick Rose
  • 2014 -- Roger Goodell and Ray Rice
  • 2013 -- Alex Rodriguez
  • 2012 -- U.S. Ryder Cup Team
  • 2011 -- Joe Paterno (and his Penn State enablers)
  • 2010 -- Mark McGwire
  • 2009 -- Milton Bradley
  • 2008 -- Choking Cubbies
  • 2007 -- Charlie Weis
  • 2006 -- Aramis Ramirez
  • 2005 -- Andy MacPhail, Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker
  • 2004 -- Sammy Sosa
  • 2003 -- Sammy Sosa
  • 2002 -- Dick Jauron
  • 2001 -- David Wells and Frank Thomas
  • 2000 -- Bobby Knight
  • 1999 -- Jerry Krause
  • 1998 -- Mike McCaskey

Among others, here were the candidates I considered for 2022's Top Gobbler (in alphabetical order):

Robbie Anderson ... Archie Bradley ... Tom Brady ... Antonio Brown ... Rodolfo Castro ... Bryson DeChambeau ... Novak Djokovic ... Kevin Durant ... Nathaniel Hackett ... Kyrie Irving ... Michael Jordan ... Kliff Kingsbury ... Zack Littell ... Brad Marchand ... Baker Mayfield ... Phil Mickelson ... D.J. Moore ... Thomas Morstead ... Kyler Murray ... Greg Norman ... Aaron Rodgers ... Grant Sands ... Robert Sarver ... Brandon Staley ... Russell Wilson.

Which brings us to my Final Four:

Miles Bridges

Talk about a guy who had the world in the palm of his hand. The Charlotte Hornets forward rejected a nice contract last year, making a huge bet on himself. And he won the bet, having a career year. He was headed for a massive, 9-figure deal. But then Bridges allegedly beat the hell out of the mother of his children -- right in front of the children! -- and now he is toxic.

Matt Rhule

The first NFL coach fired this season, Rhule lasted only 5 games into his third year with the Carolina Panthers. He whiffed on 5 QBs -- which is 5 too many whiffs at football's most important position -- and he made plenty of other boneheaded decisions, too. And yes, I'm miffed that I'm about to lose my bet on the Panthers having a winning record this season; that's Rhule's fault, too!

Herschel Walker

It's not difficult to find hypocrisy in politics, but it's not easy to find the kind of All-World, Hall-of-Fame level hypocrisy that the U.S. Senate candidate from Georgia has shown regarding the abortion issue. Whenever Walker speaks, he sounds like he was hit in the helmet a few too many times -- or a few thousand too many times. He's a pathological liar, as well ... but at least he told the truth when he said: "I'm not that smart."

And now ... The 2022 Turkey of the Year ...

TONY LA RUSSA

Still feeling guilty decades later about having fired La Russa as manager at the insistence of the inept Hawk Harrelson in 1986, Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf brought La Russa back for the 2021 season. Tony was 76 years old and hadn't been in an MLB dugout for a decade.

Although the Sox were routed by the Astros in their first playoff series, La Russa's return was a success in Year 1. And his young, talented team entered the 2022 season as a trendy World Series pick.

It was pretty much a disaster from beginning to end, however. La Russa made numerous questionable decisions -- including twice calling for intentional walks with 1-2 counts on batters (one of which backfired spectacularly). La Russa has always been one who has felt he was smarter than everybody else, and even after those moves failed, he doubled-down on his genius.

He also dozed off in the dugout, and his team's fundamentals were horrid all season. The Sox simply looked unprepared and, well, un-managed.



The White Sox finished 81-81, with most observers calling them the biggest disappointment in the major leagues.

La Russa ended up leaving the team with a month to go to address a medical situation, an inglorious end to an otherwise outstanding managerial career.

I wish him good health and happiness, and I hope he enjoys Thanksgiving more than he enjoyed his turkey of a final season as a big-league skipper.
^


Sunday, November 6, 2022

Congrats to Dusty Baker -- World Series Champion

^

I didn't really have a dog in the World Series fight, but I admit I'm really happy that Dusty Baker finally has won that elusive championship.

It was cool to see not only the unbridled joy of a guy who is 73 going on 23 -- "What's next? Party!" -- but also to witness the obvious love his Astros players and the fans have for him.



What a life Johnnie B. Baker has led. 

He was born in 1949. He grew up during a difficult (and sometimes even deadly) time to be an outspoken young Black man. He left California in 1967 for Atlanta, which was one of the epicenters of segregation and the Civil Rights movement. Hank Aaron took him under his wing, and Dusty got to see the dignity with which Hank handled the incredible abuse he received. All of those things Dusty witnessed as a child and young man helped shape what he would become.




Baker was a hell of a ballplayer, a multiple All-Star who twice finished in the top 10 in MVP voting and who was a big contributor to the 1981 champion Dodgers. 

As a manager, he helped turn the Giants, Cubs, Reds and Nationals from mediocrities (or worse) into legitimate contenders ... only to fail to win it all, sometimes in spectacular fashion. (To this day, the top of the 8th inning of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS remains the most incredible half-hour of sports I've seen, and yes, Dusty contributed to the Cubbie collapse.)




And what an amazing job he did in Houston, given that organization's situation before he got there. He's a baseball lifer who had done everything in the game except win a World Series as a manager, and now he can check that off his list.

Asked about that last night, he told ESPN: "God-dang it! Oh, it's a wonderful thing! I just knew it was gonna happen sooner or later ... and I said if I win one, I wanna win two, so we might as well go for two!"




He might be the best manager or coach I've ever seen at convincing high-paid professional athletes to work toward common goals and to believe in themselves during times of adversity. 

Sometimes, he used an "us against the world, and screw everybody else" vibe to do so, and that pissed off some baseball fans. He also has been very outspoken about race relations, which of course ticks off a lot of people who believe that athletes (especially Black athletes) should just "shut up and dribble."

I was part of hundreds of conversations with Dusty Baker over the years, especially during his 4-year tenure as Cubs manager.

Most of those conversations were in group settings, but I also was fortunate to have several 1-on-1 interviews with him -- most on the record, but some just two guys talking. He pretty quickly became a favorite of mine, and I came away from many of those (especially our off-the-record chats) feeling as if I had been a student in an upper-level U.S. history course.

So congrats to Dusty Baker -- baseball lifer, inspirational leader, and just one cool dude.
^

Saturday, August 13, 2022

The Deposed Mad King's 7 Stages of Denial

  1. I don’t have any government documents at Mar-a-Lago.
  2. The FBI ransacked Mar-a-Lago – it’s another witch hunt.
  3. The FBI planted evidence.
  4. There weren’t any top-secret documents.
  5. All those documents marked top-secret? I actually already declassified them.
  6. Barack Hussein Obama had 30 million documents at his house.
  7. I’m being persecuted. Send money, everybody!

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Super Upset?

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Short and quick about Super Bowl Whatever Number This Is ...

I really love watching Joe Burrow play. Lots of chutzpah and a ton of talent. And that Cinci kicker is a cool, cocky kid too. I'd expect him to hit anywhere from 55 & in with the game on the line if he gets the chance. 

I like Matthew Stafford as well (and I'm bummed the Panthers didn't get him). I'd have questioned his ability to pull out a close game, but he responded big-time against the Niners. I do think that with all the talk about LA's defensive line, Cinci's is getting overlooked some. They can get after Stafford and put him on his butt.

Last year, I felt the Bucs would torment Mahomes, who was playing behind a porous offensive line. And the Bengals have an even worse O-line ... and the Rams have a great D-line. 

And yet, I just see Burrow finding a way this time.

Bengals 23, Rams 20

^

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Gobble! Gobble! Time for the 2021 Turkey of the Year

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After 2020 finally, mercifully ended, did you think 2021 would be a breeze? Welp ... sorry about that. This year has kinda sucked, too. But at least we always have sports to distract us from all of life's troubles, right?

Think again! The 2021 sports landscape has featured lots of great moments, to be sure, but it also has given us a close-up look at all kinds of losers, scoundrels, incompetents, liars, conspiracy theorists and dolts.

Then again, I've been choosing the Turkey of the Year since 1998, and there's rarely been a shortage of these less-than-desirables. Here's a look back at my selections throughout the years ...

  • 2020 -- Donald F. Trump
  • 2019 -- Antonio Brown
  • 2018 -- J.R. Smith
  • 2017 -- Kyle Shanahan
  • 2016 -- Pat McCrory
  • 2015 -- Derrick Rose
  • 2014 -- Roger Goodell and Ray Rice
  • 2013 -- Alex Rodriguez
  • 2012 -- U.S. Ryder Cup Team
  • 2011 -- Joe Paterno (and his Penn State enablers)
  • 2010 -- Mark McGwire
  • 2009 -- Milton Bradley
  • 2008 -- Choking Cubbies
  • 2007 -- Charlie Weis
  • 2006 -- Aramis Ramirez
  • 2005 -- Andy MacPhail, Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker
  • 2004 -- Sammy Sosa
  • 2003 -- Sammy Sosa
  • 2002 -- Dick Jauron
  • 2001 -- David Wells and Frank Thomas
  • 2000 -- Bobby Knight
  • 1999 -- Jerry Krause
  • 1998 -- Mike McCaskey

You might have noticed that up until 2010, each of those turkeys did his gobblin' in Chicago and/or the Midwest because that's where I was based. The "award" actually got its start under my Copley Newspapers predecessor and friend, the late Gene Seymour. Since moving to North Carolina, I've expanded my Turkey-choosing horizons. Still, as always, I dedicate this to Gene's memory.

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Without further ado, here's the 2021 Turkey of the Year countdown ...

13. WILL CRAIG. Will Who? Exactly! Back in May, as the first baseman of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Craig made arguably the worst play by an infielder in the history of professional baseball. Yep .. THE ... WORST ... EVER. His very apt quote afterward: "I kinda lost my mind." 



12. URBAN MEYER. If a new NFL coach wants to make a good first impression on his players, most of whom are Black, one way NOT to do it is by hiring a racist as strength coach. But that's exactly what Meyer did after becoming the Jaguars' head coach. When confronted, he at first got defensive. But he soon realized he had to fire the guy he just hired. Oh ... and his Jaguars suck, too.

11. NCAA HONCHOS. They had years to get in front of the movement to let athletes be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses (aka NIL), but instead the suits tried to fight it. Numerous states passed their own rules, and by the time the NCAA caved in, there was no mechanism in place to make things reasonably equitable. As usual, if it involves NCAA decision-makers, it's a mess. But I'm still glad college athletes have the same rights that their fellow college students do.

10. CURT SCHILLING. He used to be a great pitcher, so great that he very well might be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But he's also a hate-filled, homophobic, Islamophobic, conspiracy-theory-spewing, far-right-wingnut. (One of his bigoted tweets, comparing Muslims to Nazis, follows this paragraph.) He actually demanded to be taken off the ballot in this, his final year of eligibility for the Hall ... but the Hall correctly said "nope, you're staying on the ballot" ... and he has a good chance of getting in after falling only 16 votes short last time. Disclosure: I have voted for him in the past, and I'd vote for him again if I still had a ballot. It's not as if he'd be the only dirtbag in the Hall.

9. MATT NAGY. This just in: There are reports that the Bears will fire their inept coach after the team's Thanksgiving game against Detroit. Of course, there's little doubt that Nagy should be fired, as he has mishandled the team for most of his time in Chicago. Then again, if GM Ryan Pace isn't canned, too, will it really matter?

8. KLETE KELLER. The U.S. Olympic swimmer pleaded guilty on Oct. 13 to felony obstruction for taking part in the Jan. 6 coup attempt at the Capitol. His involvement in the insurrection wasn't exactly stealthy -- he wore his Olympic jacket while recording himself screaming expletives about Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. So he's not only a seditionist and a convicted felon, he's also a dope. U.S.A! Hang Mike Pence! U.S.A.! Hang Mike Pence!

7. ROBBY ANDERSON. After signing a big-money contract extension during the offseason, the Panthers wide receiver has gone on to lead the NFL in dropped passes. As if that's not enough for Turkey-dom, he also has lashed out on two separate occasions at teammates and coaches. Much easier to get angry at others than to hold himself accountable, I guess.


6. MEL TUCKER.
The Michigan State football coach had a nice win against Michigan. So nice that MSU boosters apparently want to make him the second-highest-paid coach in college football history -- 10 years, $95 million -- despite his 16-14 career record. Unfortunately, word of the big contract leaked just before the Spartans' game against Ohio State ... and then the Spartans were down 49-0 faster than you could say, "Waste of effen money." I wonder how much of that contract Ohio State boosters are willing to pay to keep Tucker coaching in the Big Ten.

5. TREVOR BAUER. The Dodgers spent more than $100 million to sign a pitcher they thought would help them win another World Series. But only a few months into the quirky right-hander's stay in L.A., he was accused of sexual assault ... and he didn't pitch in a game after June 28. I don't really have anything clever to say here because sexual assault isn't funny. 

4. BEN SIMMONS. The 76ers' $170 million point guard has become a total head case. He has talent and size ... but he hasn't improved as a shooter in the 6 years he's been a pro. And he's such a disaster at the free-throw line that he doesn't even want to create contact. The ultimate bizarro scenario came in Game 7 of the Sixers' playoff loss to Atlanta on June 20, when Simmons passed up an open dunk to give the ball to a well-defended teammate. (See video below.) He wants to be traded and the Sixers would love to deal him, but who wants to give up multiple draft picks and tens of millions of dollars for a guard who won't -- and can't -- shoot?


3. KYRIE IRVING, AMARI COOPER, ANTONIO BROWN and VARIOUS OTHER ANTI-VAXXERS. Each has some different story, some different excuse, some different scam. But all of them have hurt or are hurting their teammates, coaches, communities and fans. Is there any doubt why we can't get past COVID-19 when selfish and/or misinformed turkeys won't do their part?

2. NICK ROLOVICH. Washington State fired its head coach after he refused to get vaccinated -- which is required of all state employees. (He also happened to be the state's highest-paid employee.) Rolovich is fighting his termination in court, saying he should have been granted a religious exemption. One problem with that defense: He's Catholic; there's nothing in the Catholic faith that prevents people from getting vaccinated; and Pope Francis himself is advocating for the vaccine. So Rolovich is a liar as well as a science-denier ... and his career record (33-33) indicates he's not much of a coach, either.

And now ... The 2021 Turkey of the Year ...

AARON RODGERS


While we're on a roll talking about all these me-first, ignorant, anti-vaxx dopes, let's bestow the highest "honor" on the the most famous (infamous?) of them all.

Back in training camp, the Green Bay QB -- and 2020 NFL MVP -- assured everybody that he was "immunized." 

But it was all a lie ... which we learned when Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 and had to miss a game, which the Packers lost. 

Through it all, he doubled-down and tripled-down; he claimed that being "immunized" (with what, he hasn't said) was better than being "vaccinated"; and he threw his lot in with anti-vaxx conspiracy theorist Joe Rogan and that ilk.

This is the Packers' "leader." For all of his talent and regular-season success, no wonder they haven't even sniffed a Super Bowl in a decade. 

The vaccine flap was all part of a bizarre 2021 for Rodgers that began with yet another playoff loss and then months of speculation about whether he had demanded a trade, whether the Packers would deal him, whether he'd be gone after this season, and on and on and on. 

It was a stupid soap opera ... only to be made more stupid by his refusal to accept a proven, life-saving vaccine that could have protected him, his teammates, his family and everybody else he comes into contact with.

Gobble, gobble, you Turkey!

^

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Was Marv Albert the greatest announcer ever? YES!

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Watching the end of the Bucks-Hawks game last night made me a little sad. Not because I'm a Hawks fan, but because I've been admiring the work of Marv Albert for nearly 5 decades, and that was his last event as an announcer.

NBAE via Getty Images
When I was a kid growing up in Connecticut, I was a huge Knicks fan, and I used to keep score of Knicks games as I listened to Marv's radio calls. (OK, I was a nerd; whatever!)

I'd check the box score in the paper the next day, and it was amazing how accurate not only the point totals were but also the rebounds and assists. Because Marv made it possible for me to "see" the game while listening to his radio call.

And even as he was accurate, he did add little flourishes that made games more enjoyable. Walt Frazier wasn't just fouled, he was "run into." Earl Monroe didn't just make a layup, "He drives and hits." Phil Jackson didn't just defend an inbounds pass, he used his long arms for "the windmill effect." And of course, there was Marv's trademark, "YES!" (And, as an occasional bonus, "YES ... AND IT COUNTS! He was fouled on the play!")

Marv Albert was no homer. When opposing players made great plays, he'd say so. And when the Knicks sucked, he'd say so. To this day, I have trouble listening to over-the-top homer announcers.

His dedication to objectivity and accuracy made him a natural to make the jump from local to national announcing.

Being a sportswriter, the Knicks fan got "beaten out" of me pretty early into my career. Indeed, as an AP guy, I -- like Marv -- strongly valued objectivity and accuracy. I didn't root for the teams I covered (nor did I root against them).

But even after I stopped being a Knicks fan, I never stopped being a Marv Albert fan. He was the best chronicler of live basketball games I've ever heard ... and I've heard a bazillion of them during the 55 years that Marv plied his trade.

Oh, and he was a gifted hockey announcer, too, and darn good at football and boxing.

So yes, last night was bittersweet. I'm glad I got to hear Marv one last time. But I'm sad it was the last time.
^

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Stone Cold Lock - My 2021 NCAA Bracket

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Well, here's my 2021 NCAA Tournament bracket.

If you win big money betting on this, I get 50%.

If you lose big money betting on this, I never heard of you.

If you just use this for comic relief ... you're very smart.

(Click on the image if you actually want to see it.)

Some upsets in there because, well, ya gotta. Rutgers in the Sweet 16. San Diego State and Oregon in the Elite 8. And UConn in my Final Four.

What the heck, right?

In the end, I have the Fighting Illini cutting down the nets for the first time ever thanks to an exciting win over the Zags.

One thing I didn't pick were any 12s to upset any 5s. Everybody loves picking 12s, and three 12s did win in the last pre-COVID tourney. But in the previous four tournaments, 12s went 3-13 -- including 0-fers in 2015 and 2018. I'm feelin' another 0-fer coming. (So now watch the 12s go 4-0.) 

Anyhoo ...

Good luck, everybody, and may your March be as Mad as yiou want it to be.

^

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Honest, Abe -- You've been great to drive for a decade now!

 ^

Starting with the 1973 Plymouth Valiant my parents gave me during my senior year of college, I have owned 32 cars.

That's right ... thirty-two!

Many I owned for less than a year, as I had a problem or an addiction or ... I don't know what to call my inability to be satisfied with whatever car I had for longer than a couple of years (or, in some cases, a couple of months). 

What I do know is that if I had kept my cars for several years each instead of hopping willy-nilly from one to another, we'd probably be living on a private island by now.

Sometimes, we were victimized by bad luck. Our 1986 Mazda 626 was stolen about six weeks after we bought it. A few years later we bought a beautiful, blue 1990 Mazda 626 ... but a tree fell on it only 9 days after we got it home. 

No wonder Mazda no longer makes the 626 - it was cursed!!!

We had a few other mishaps, a couple of real lemons, and a car whose interior smelled faintly like smoke (not sure why we bought the dang thing in the first place, but we didn't keep it very long). 

Oh, and our poor 2007 Toyota Prius got totaled in an accident in a mall parking lot just a few months after we moved to Charlotte.

Back in 1992, I drove a 1981 Honda Civic that was held together by rust. Even though the kids and I lovingly called it "The Chariot," Robbie wouldn't let the kids ride in it. Bought that one for $350 and sold it 4 months later for $375!

So why am I in Reminiscence Mode about my 32 cars?

Because today is Abe's 10th birthday!

"Abe" is my 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe. He's still a beauty, no?


We gave him his name because his first license plate started with the letters ABE. He has been an outstanding car for us ... and we have had him longer - by far - than any other car.

Second on the longevity list was the 1986 Ford Taurus Wagon we bought new in '86 and kept for 6 years and 8 months. Third and fourth were the two Hyundai sedans we bought since moving to North Carolina. Robbie currently drives a 2016 Sonata Hybrid - a car we've had for a little over 4 years.

Abe's plate was replaced several years ago, first by one reading 16CHAMPS after the middle school where I used to coach won our first conference title (in 2016 - get it?), and then 2XCHAMPS after we repeated in 2017. I continue to wait for another of my teams to give me a reason to get a new plate!

No matter what the plate says now, Abe is still Abe, and he is still going strong. His "Pacific Blue Pearl" paint looks pretty darn good for a 10-year-old car. He has just under 85,000 miles - not many for a 2011.

Oh, Abe has had his share of bumps and bruises. During a 2013 visit to Chicago, he was minding his own business in a parking lot when some jerk smashed in his back window.


February is a big month for 10th birthdays and anniversaries. Back on Feb. 2, our loyal pup Simmie turned 10. And Feb. 11 was the 10th anniversary of us buying our one and only N.C. home.

Given the way I went through cars, though, I thought Abe's 10th birthday was especially notable.

Although I have started thinking about what kind of vehicle I might want to drive next, I plan to continue my relationship with good ol' Abe for a while longer.

I'll never be one of those guys who gets to brag about putting his 500,000th mile on his trusty 35-year-old pickup - that's simply not how I'm wired - but it's nice to know that I finally have kicked my car-buying addiction!

^


Sunday, February 7, 2021

Super Memories ... and this year's Super prediction

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If you're a sports fan like me, you smile as you think about your favorite teams over the years.

If you were a Patriots fan the last 2 decades, or a Bulls fan in the 1990s, or a Yankees fan in the 1940s and '50s, you get to do a lot of smiling as you stroll down Memory Lane.

Most of us don't have that many happy highlights. Think of Cleveland fans, or Detroit fans, or Philly fans, or Buffalo fans. There's a good memory here and there ... and also a lot of torturous ones.

For me ... the Dolphins were the first pro team in any sport that I took a liking to, and I still can recite the entire lineup and uniform numbers of the 1972 undefeated champions and their (actually superior) 1973 successors. To this day, Larry Csonka is my all-time favorite athlete, and I'll be wearing my official replica No. 39 Dolphins jersey for today's Super Bowl LV. Although that was a lifetime ago, the memories obviously remain special -- almost like a first crush.



Then came the late-1970s Yankees of Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin and Thurman Munson and George Steinbrenner -- champions who also were a bunch of characters, many of whom hated each other. 

After that, I have cheered on some great teams but, ultimately, teams that didn't get it done at the end. The 1984 Dolphins, with a young Dan Marino setting record after record, were a thrill ... until they got crushed in the Super Bowl by the Joe Montana 49ers. 

The 2003 Marquette Golden (Warrior) Eagles, led by the incomparable Dwyane Wade and the clutch Travis Diener, went to the Final Four ... but they were annihilated by eventual champion Kansas.


And then there were the 2015 Panthers.

Doggone it, that was a fun year to live in Charlotte. The city was buzzing every week as Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly & Co. dominated the league. With Cam's dabbin' fun personality, they were a bigger-than-life bunch who could really play football. 

Alas, they suffered an upset loss to the Broncos and their 106-year-old QB, Peyton Manning, in Super Bowl 50.

It's hard to believe it's been 5 years since that joyous season and that sad finish. Since then, the Panthers have changed owners, fired the GM (actually, fired 2 GMs), and replaced the coach and his entire staff. Only 4 players who were on that team are still on the roster. 

All of which brings me to today's Super Bowl between the Chiefs and Bucs.

A lot about this game reminds me of SB50. 

Like the Panthers, the Chiefs cruised through the regular season behind a dynamic quarterback (Patrick Mahomes). Like the Broncos, the Bucs are their conference's surprising survivor and are led by the league's oldest quarterback (Tom Brady).

Like the Panthers, the Chiefs have an incredible offense and a pretty darn good defense. Like the Broncos, the Bucs have some superb defensive playmakers who can make life difficult for even great quarterbacks.

I am sick and tired of Tom Brady winning. And I truly love watching Patrick Mahomes play. And yet I can't shake the feeling that Mahomes -- playing on a tender foot and behind an injured offensive line -- will spend much of the game running for his life, just as Newton did in SB50. And I can't shake the feeling that Old Man Brady will be smiling at the end, just as Old Man Manning was.

Prediction (and I actually hope I'm wrong):

Bucs 27, Chiefs 24

^